It’s a good bet you’re close to someone who’s struggling with weight issues. One-third of adults in the United States are overweight. Your friends that are going through these difficulties may want to open up and talk about their weight challenges with you. Will you be ready to listen and support your friend?
Practice these strategies whenever your friend discusses their weight issues:
1. Avoid getting drawn into their pain and hurt. Becoming inundated with your own emotional feelings about your friend’s situation will prevent you from being there to provide support to them. Keep your own feelings separate from theirs.
2. Listen well. We all want someone to listen and acknowledge our thoughts and feelings. If your friend talks about weight struggles with you, listening quietly is an effective approach.
- Show you’re listening by maintaining eye contact as they’re speaking, leaning forward, and saying things, like, “Uh-huh” or “I see what you mean.”
3. Answer questions honestly, without being hurtful. If your friend poses a question regarding their weight, make your response genuine and supportive.
- For example, let’s say your friend says something like, “I look so fat in these pants. What do you think?” You could respond by saying “It sounds like you’d rather wear a different style of pants.” Then you could share some suggestions or offer to go shopping with them.
- If you know of clothing they feel particularly confident in, mention it. “You seemed to really like those navy pants that you wore yesterday.”
4. Remind yourself of the biggest struggle you’ve ever had. Since we’ve all experienced one type of difficulty or another, thinking of your own prior challenges can help. You can relate to your friend and determine what they’ll need from you.
- What did you desire at a particularly trying time? Was it just someone to hang out with?
- Increase your understanding of your friend’s weight struggles by harking back to your own prior disappointment.
5. Celebrate small successes. When your friend announces they lost four pounds, make an effort to celebrate it. Say something supportive like, “Good for you! That’s a fantastic effort for the week!”
6. Be willing to take part in adventuresome physical activities. If your friend says they would like to try wall-climbing, volunteer to go with them. Or if they mention the weather’s nice and they’d like to go hiking at a nearby national park, join them.
- Taking advantage of such opportunities opens the door to healthy ways to exercise for both of you and increases your friend’s self-awareness regarding their physical condition.
7. Avoid responses that could be misinterpreted by your friend. Sometimes innocent comments about someone’s appearance can be misconstrued or overreacted to, especially if a person is hypersensitive about their weight issues. Avoid saying or doing the following things with a friend who’s overweight:
- Opening a conversation by stating, “I’m concerned about your weight.” Although your intentions may be good, know that your friend may not appreciate this line of conversation. Besides, there’s no scientific evidence that indicates an “intervention” is helpful when the “substance” of choice is food.
- Asking, “Have you ever thought about losing weight?” Of course, they’ve thought about it. But, for whatever reason, they just haven’t been successful in their plan.
- Making statements like, “Let’s both start watching what we eat” or “I could stand to lose a few pounds.” Particularly if your weight isn’t excessive, suggesting that you need to lose weight too can be irritating and come across as mocking.
- Trying to control what your friend eats through decision-making. For example, you may pick a restaurant that only makes vegetarian food or serves small helpings. Your friend will likely notice these efforts and could feel insulted or marginalized.
- Reminding them that they’re on a diet. Even though your friend may have announced their diet, it’s probably best that you avoid trying to control the situation with reminders.
You can be there to emotionally support a friend that’s overweight. Put these methods into action and your friend will appreciate your efforts.